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Seaport infrastructure improvements are critical to economic recovery

The rapidly increasing size of cargo and cruise ships, new trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea and President Obama’s National Export Initiative that seeks to double U.S. exports by 2015, all will require the federal government to increase infrastructure spending to support these efforts. 

Seaports are essential to international trade and keeping our economy strong, but projects to improve them take years – if not decades – to plan and build. 

If we’re serious about ensuring our country’s long-term prosperity, policymakers need to make America’s seaports a priority. Failure to improve our ports and related infrastructure will hinder our country’s global competiveness.

Earlier this month, President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness made an urgent plea for improvements in our nation’s transportation infrastructure, including landside and waterside access to ports. Through increased investment in and connecting to seaports, we can create high-paying, sustainable jobs that will help put Americans back to work.

To accommodate larger ships, increased trade and a growing population, investments are critical to modernizing and maintaining federal navigation channels on the waterside and intermodal freight connectors and transportation corridors on the landside.  Without them, the U.S. will continue to fall short among our global competitors. It’s that simple. 

Our nation’s transportation infrastructure is at a tipping point. Individual seaports are making the necessary investments in their facilities so they can continue to support the U.S. economy, but they can’t do it alone. Our ports must be a federal priority to ensure that we can support future generations and be prepared for the many opportunities and challenges headed our way. 

Jerry Bridges is the Chairman of the Board of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) and Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority. He recently testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. 

Kurt Nagle is the president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) based in Alexandria, Virginia.

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